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MTV’s dialing up auds and dollars

Web uses SMS for 'VJ' search, other contests

SINGAPORE — MTV Asia’s “VJ Hunt Thailand” has proved, yet again, that there is huge audience demand for interactive TV shows using mobile phones’ short messaging service (SMS).

Broadcasters are rapidly realizing the moneymaking potential of SMS, also called text messaging, text-to-TV or TXT-2-TV.

When MTV India ran “VJ Hunt” 14 hours a day for six days, it received more than 200,000 premium text messages, at 30¢ per message, allowing the audience to “chat” live with members of the show and vote for their favorite VJ.

A recent ESPN Star Sports pan-Asian contest, sponsored by X-Box, took more than 100,000 SMS responses.

“The mobile phone has changed broadcasting forever,” says Colin Miles, director of cross-media company i-POP. “It has changed the way viewers understand and interact with television.

“TXT-2-TV programming has delivered the opportunity for broadcasters and media brands to connect with viewers in a truly powerful, personal way. Moreover, multi-media messaging service has now enabled pictures and user-generated graphic content to be used on screen as standard.”

SPH MediaWorks’ “Movie Combo” show on terrestrial TV in Singapore let viewers vote for the movie trailer they wanted to see. “The fully-automated system meant the show pretty much ran itself,” explains Miles. “The broadcaster’s future could now truly be said to be firmly in viewers’ hands.”

He believes Asia is leading the way in the revolution.

“It’s only since shows like (Fox’s) ‘American Idol’ that the trend is playing out Stateside. Asian Broadcasters like MTV and ESPN Star Sports have been experimenting for a couple of years.”

But the U.S. is catching up — the Participation TV USA confab will take place in Las Vegas in October.

“The U.S. market is quickly realizing the potential offered through wireless interaction with several recent mass media events incorporating SMS voting,” note event organizers Van Dusseldorp.